Organizations as discursive gravitational fields

Antonio Gelis‐Filho (Department of General Management and Human Resources, Fundação Getúlio Vargas – EAESP, São Paulo, Brazil)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Publication date: 30 March 2012

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a metaphor of organizations as discursive gravitational fields.

Design/methodology/approach

The metaphor was built based on Einstein's general theory of relativity and Lacan's theory of discourse. The dialogue with organization studies was made possible through the utilization of the communicative theory of organizations as theoretical background.

Findings

A number of insights were derived from the metaphor. First, organizations can distort their discursive surroundings up to the point of stopping any flux of independent discourse; second, the boundaries of organizations are to be understood as a gradient of discursive influence which fades away, often much beyond its legal limits; that also creates degrees of “stakeholding”, corresponding to different levels of influence and dependence on a specific organization by their stakeholders; third, the discursive fields of different organizations are often superposed, creating the phenomena of interference and superposition among organizational discursive fields; fourth, speciation among organizations is related to the kind of symbolic element attracted predominantly by their surrounding fields; and fifth, Lacanian theory suggests that no absolute and permanent discursive power is possible to persons or organizations, leaving room to the continuous production of new and potentially emancipating meaning, whose appearance, however, can be very difficult to predict due to its “discursive quantum nature”.

Practical implications

This metaphor can help researchers and managers to interpret the discursive phenomena involving organizations as a whole, as well as organizational relations with stakeholders.

Originality/value

By bringing together organization theory, Einstein's and Lacan's theories, this paper provides a new view on the relation between organizations, discourse and society.

Keywords

Citation

Gelis‐Filho, A. (2012), "Organizations as discursive gravitational fields", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 236-250. https://doi.org/10.1108/09534811211213928

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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